By Jim Duncan
Sometimes the more things change, the less they stay the same. Local historian-waiter John Zeller recently completed a research project on Des Moines food history. One gem he turned up is that 100 years ago, Iowa became one of six states to pass a law against tipping. Labor unions had led the lobby against the practice they considered aristocratic and un-American. Difficult to enforce, all anti-tipping laws were repealed by 1923. Recent studies found that Americans tip some $45 billion a year in restaurants and that 40 percent of that is unreported to the Internal Revenue Service, which would like to see tipping replaced with a flat service charge. Local waiters have begun using new digital debit/credit services that encourage customers to click on 15-, 20- or 25-percent tipping options.
The past quarter of this year was also filled with research and introspection for the food industry. Visa completed a new survey finding that Americans go out to eat for lunch an average of nearly twice a week and spend an average of $18 per week, or $936 per year, on lunch alone. Men outspent women at the lunch counter by 44 percent. Fast food industry research reported that the average drive-through time at fast food stores nationwide had increased to its longest ever — well over three minutes. That study blamed expanded menus that are being implemented to increase average ticket prices, claiming such meals required additional cooking time.
Des Moines’ restaurant industry ignored most studies and continued to bounce back from the panic of 2008 with far more openings than closings.
The Good News
Two of Des Moines’ top owner/chefs, David Baruthio (Baru66) and Jason Simon (Alba), broke ground on new pasta/pizza shops that will feature scratch-made pasta and wood-fired pies. Baruthio’s place on First Street in West Des Moines is due to open any day now. Simon’s Eatery A, in the old Blockbuster on Ingersoll, is shooting for the holiday season… Cozy Café opened its sixth area store on Hickman Road… Cinco de Mayo owners Carmello Martinez and Juan Rodriguez opened a second restaurant, in the former E.P. True Burger in West Des Moines… Tag and Meg Grandgeorge reopened Le Jardin, this time in the former Farah’s venue in Beaverdale… Gusto opened its second store on University in West Des Moines… Khaled Abdalla and Fernando Gonzalez opened the Hallal Fernando’s Mexican Grill in Dogtown… Mills Fleet Farm, selling everything from farm supplies to fishing gear and food, opened on Southeast Delaware Avenue in Ankeny… Sam Auen opened Tacopolypse in the former Luna Bistro on Des Moines Street… Jethro’s broke ground on its fifth restaurant on 86th Street in Johnston.
Simon Goheen (Simon’s), Mike McCoy and Mick Grossman bought TR’s Sports Bar and Grille and renamed it University Tap… Jesse’s Embers celebrated 50 years on Ingersoll… La Pizza House moved a few blocks from its original location on East 14th Street to Maury Street… Kris van Tuyl closed Luna Bistro and became executive chef at Cityscape Lounge in Holiday Inn Mercy Campus… Linda Bisignano put Chuck’s up for sale… Hooters’ West Des Moines store closed after the bankruptcy of its franchise owner. Hooters’ parent company bought the franchise and announced it would reopen in another Des Moines location… Findlay’s Smokehouse Barbeque closed for the second time… Starbuck’s closed its Drake West Village store… West coast fruit farmers reported $20 billion worth of their good stuff will rot this year for lack of laborers to pick them… Café Su reopened its original venue in Valley Junction… Hot Shots announced it’s closing its downtown store and moving to a larger venue.
Honors and Awards
Tara Smith, the former University of Iowa researcher who discovered alarming links between MRSA infections and confined animal feeding operations, was promoted to associate professor of the Department of Biostatistics, Environmental Health and Epidemiology at Kent State University… Chef Dominic Iannarelli of Splash Seafood Bar and Grill in Des Moines won both the professional panel and people’s choice culinary awards at the Iowa Restaurant Association’s Dine Iowa Grand Tasting Gala. …Shad Kirton (Smokey D’s) has been invited to this year’s Jack Daniels Invitational World Championship of barbecue… Darren and Sherry Warth of Des Moines (Kirton’s partners at Smokey D’s) won the overall grand championship at this year’s American Royal BBQ in Kansas City, the nation’s largest barbecue competition. They did it on their anniversary, too… Jeff Duncan (Dos Rios, Big City Burger and Greens) was named restaurateur of the year by Iowa Restaurant Association. Johan Larsson (Django) was that group’s chef of the year… Splash won its fifth straight Dirona award. The only other Iowa restaurant to ever win one is 801 Steak and Chop House… Des Moines was selected for a U.S. State Department Culinary Diplomacy Tour. Four Palestinian chefs visited town for several days… A “Culture Kin Breakfast” is scheduled for Nov. 12 at Beth El Jacob Synagoge featuring the cuisine and culture of Israel and Palestine.
Chain Gang News
Dunkin’ Donuts opened its second area store on Ankeny Boulevard in Ankeny and its third on University near Des Moines Golf and Country Club… CherryBerry and Taco John’s opened a shared space in the former Cup O’ Kryptonite comic book and coffee shop on Fleur Drive… Noodles and Company opened its fourth area store on Mills Civic Parkway… Jimmy John’s announced it will open a new store on 86th in Johnston… Darden Restaurants became the poster child for unhealthy foods after stomach viruses, traced to Mexican bagged salad mix struck multiple customers at Olive Garden and Red Lobster outlets… A U.S. Court of Appeals struck down New York City’s ban on large-sized sodas… A new Pizza Ranch restaurant was scheduled to open on 86th Street in Urbandale around Relish’s press time… With 1,320 calories, Long John Silver’s Big Catch (fried fish, hush puppies and onion rings) was declared the “Worst Restaurant Meal in America” by the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI)… McDonald’s introduced chicken wings, KFC introduced boneless chicken and Popeye’s introduced chicken fried in waffle batter… Wendy’s new pretzel bun burgers became so successful that Sonic, Ruby Tuesday’s, McDonald’s and Burger King all rushed to develop similar products.
Food Science News
Solutions were found for obesity-dominated food science studies this summer. Unilever researchers found that ice-cold drinks and frozen foods trigger satiety much faster than warmer drinks and foods. Snack industry researchers pushed new products made from pulses, beans and vegetables over their traditional potato and corn varieties. Garcia Co. came out with a new chip that is half corn and half potato… Bad news hit microwave pop corn. Butter flavor alternatives, touted as replacements for the much maligned (and successfully sued) diacetyl were found to be just as unsafe… Locally, DuPont won a GMO flower for its lapel, when its system to detect pathogenic E. coli was adopted by the U.S. Department of Agriculture Food Safety and Inspection Service… Israeli-based Salt of the Earth introduced a new line of colored salts, lower than normal in sodium, to trick children into reducing the sodium in their diets. RELISH
Correction: In our summer edition, we incorrectly referred to the in-house inspector at PDI as a USDA employee. He is actually from USDC (U.S. Department of Commerce). RELISH